Dedicated to Sharing the Heritage of Redwood Empire Railroading
I am now spending a lot of taxable money in Sonoma Cty and will be attending the Board of Directors meeting in Petaluma next Wednesday at 1:30.
The agenda shows nothing regarding freight service. But there is an allocated time for public comment. Not aware of how much time is allowed for each speaker but Pursuant to the Calif. State Brown act, if any of you also attend and want me to ask questions for you, you can allocate your speaking time to me. Would prefer to have you speak for yourself, but I am not shy.
Richard now West County.
How about these.
1) Has the smart board changed it's plans for freight because of SB-1029?
2) Has the CA dept. of trans been in touch with the SMART board?
3) Will the SMART board honor the contract between NCRA and NWP or will you fire the NWP and run freight yourself?
Richard, good suggestions. There is a front page article in the Press Democrat today titled "What's next for rail line?". But while there is mention of an eastward extension and even a future link to the East Bay via a new rail bridge from San Rafael (where's the $$$ coming for that??), not a word mentioned about future support for freight service by either the agency management or the SMART board members, many of who are also local elected reps.
I expect to make note of that shortcoming this week.
I plan to speak at the SMART board meeting today if allowed. If you are there too come up and introduce yourself.
You will do fine. Remember all of us on this network have your back.
I would love to attend but I live in Denver, Colorado. My next trip out when I visit mom.
Good luck Richard! Keep us posted.
The SMART Workshop and Board meeting today impressed me. To Bob Cleek, I was very impressed with GM Farhad Mansourian during the "Workshop". He was very organized and had completely professional presentation materials. As well, he answered all board member questions in a very thorough and professional manner.
You can peruse the minutes from the workshop for full details, but I can report that the 4 NEW SMART cars on their way for October delivery to SMART from NS were damaged by UP while enroute. Mansourian showed a picture of the major damage to one of the 4 cars but did not detail how the damage occurred. He did report that all 4 cars were damaged, two with to "some damage" that won't be ready for delivery until "spring" and the other two with "substantial damage" that will not return until next summer. This type of careless operation would never be tolerated in the automotive or aircraft industry. My categorization may offend some on this w-site but it reminded me of the word folk singer U Utah Phillips used to describe the UP. He said you don't spell stUPid without a "U" and a "P". That's how badly the damage to the one car pictured looked. More than just "humping" damage. Based on the questions that some board members asked I don't think it was understood how this damage occurred.
Mansourian described how his staff had a plan in place to address the passenger overcrowding and to run more trains based on receipt of these new cars. The UP incurred damages will sadly severely delay those changes to the schedule.
There was a good question about acquiring other rolling stock but none compatible with the SMART DMUs are available.
Again I was impressed with the efforts of Mansourian and his staff to address the passenger portion of the renovation of the old NWP. However I was not impressed with his complete lack of interest in addressing any work with the NWP, or to comment on the public benefit that a rail freight operator can provide to the Sonoma-Marin tax payers who own this rail line.
More on that tomorrow.
It's been a brutal few days here in the North Bay with the unhealthy smoke so this report is a bit delayed.
The SMART meeting Wednesday (11/7) was really two meetings. The first meeting and that I reported on here Wednesday was the completion of the SMART first year "workshop" presentation to the board and the public. The good news for me was that ridership is better than they expected and that SMART is preparing to celebrate their millionth rider soon.
The Workshop was adjourned and the regular meeting then called to order on Wednesday.
Public Comment is early on the agenda in these meetings and this is where I chose to speak. With only 3 minutes allowed I opened with a cudoo to the board for the job they (SMART) have done with the renovation of the NWP RoW with my emphasis on NWP. I then went on to say that the Manager's (Mansourian's) Report was incomplete in that it contained no report on the renewed freight service. I pointed out that as a publicly owned rail line, SMART has the responsibility to provide multiples of public benefits. And one of those benefits is to facilitate the transfer of heavy freight loads off of trucks and onto the new rail line. I called freight the "Second Leg of the publicly funded renovation stool" with bicycle lanes being the third.
I went on say that passenger AND freight are all equally important as public benefits and as such freight must be included in the SMART annual report. Continuing regarding public benefit, I used Lagunitas as an example of how SMART not allowing a spur reconnection was penny wise and pund foolish. I used my becoming a new frequent traveler on 101 to describe how I saw too many heavy trucks damaging 101 which was going to cost county residents like me in both vehicle repairs and taxes.
I finished by describing how a rail car can carry 3 to 6 times the cargo of a semi depending on the cargo.
It is my (limited) observation that the SMART board as mostly Marin and Sonoma County politicians, lack knowledge of how railroads work and rely heavily on Mansourian. I doubt they had much if any understanding of my Lagunitas spur issue. I had to leave early due to a pressing move issue but I am planning to attend the next few board meetings and hopefully to talk to some of the board members.
Good job Richard! Keep up the good fight!
Would be interested in knowing the board's reaction, but that might have been after you left? Or is their intention to simply ignore community members, such as yourself? I sincerely hope you keep pressing this issue. More freight traffic has a multitude of benefits, first and foremost for me is the revenue to keep the line in tip-top shape as well as continue the march northward, and eastward too. If SMART is really smart, they will recognize and embrace freight service.
Open Meeting Acts typically do no allow Board Members to respond to public comment. So I would not consider any lack of response, being ignored.
Today's Press Democrat (PD) contains a story with a picture regarding the damage done to the new SMART passenger units while being transported by UP here to our line.
The story relies almost completely on the report provided to the SMART BoD at the early November meeting I attended by Mansourian. As someone has posted here on our w-site, we can only wonder how the units were "humped" by UP somewhere in the mid-continent.
What really concerns me as a new SMART county resident is that none of the board members questioned Mansourian about the possible cause for the damage. I for one as a kid remember seeing signs on RR freight cars reading "DO NOT HUMP".
I am VERY CONCERNED about the (complete?) lack of understanding of how railroads operate by the SMART BoD.
I know that many of you on this site live in Marin or Sonoma County and I encourage you to attend the SMART board meetings and provide your knowledgeable input to the board.
The next meeting while not confirmed on their w-site, should be Dec 7, a special date for being a guardian, at the SMART h'quarters in Petaluma.
Also possible that there's an ongoing investigation with insurance, NTSB, UP, etc. and the details cannot be shared at this time.
As a BoE member of my local school district, there is only one of us with specific knowledge of education. I wouldn't consider a lack of understanding of one topic concerning. There's always data that's not privy to the public, and ways to investigate, and research on each of the BoD own time. Again, it's possible a lack of questioning, is because the investigation is still ongoing, or the answers have already been provided in the Board Packets.